This week I was at the “eG8 Forum” in Paris. Many leading figures of the Internet world spoke at this event leading up to the meeting of the world’s 8 leading economies, including Skype’s co-founder Niklas Zennström. Another Internet hero, Professor Lawrence Lessig, together with Susan Crawford, Yochai Benkler, and French NGO La Quadrature du Net, released a call for G8 leaders to protect the open and free Internet signed by more than 30 citizen and user associations worldwide.
The press headlines focused on what they saw as President Sarkozy’s calls for governments to regulate the Internet, and other heads of state’s disagreement. The big news for the Internet this week didn’t happen at this Paris show however, but in the Netherlands (and I don’t think it has to do with Skype having had its annual company meeting in Amsterdam in March).
Recently there have been heated debates in the Dutch parliament and a very vocal campaign by citizens and NGOs, after it became clear that all 3 Dutch mobile operators would either forbid or surcharge people using Internet apps like Skype or WhatsApp. Following the adoption of a parliamentary motion, the Dutch Telecom Minister Maxime Verhagen finally announced this week that he would introduce an amendment to the Telecom Law to explicitly forbid the blocking, degradation, or surcharge of Internet applications, making specific reference to Skype – basically, protecting net neutrality in Dutch law. Though the detailed text has yet to be made available, and text has yet to be ratified by the Dutch parliament, this move is one of the most serious and welcome steps towards protecting end-users’ rights and fostering innovation in Europe.
Now we need the same action to protect online freedoms in facts, rather than mere words, across Europe (and beyond) because the Old Continent is still rife with ‘unternets’ where in one form or another, users are far from being able to do what they want and express themselves freely online (as noted in a map of Europe this week devised by OWNI). If you continue to face hurdles in using Skype on any Internet-connected device, contact your ISP, contact your local consumer association, contact your member of parliament or of the European Parliament- make your voice heard so that your Internet freedom is respected.